Conclusions from last week

Can you decide ? Are you allowed to decide on your own ? What are the limits of this power ?

Do you really know ?

Did you specifically ask ?

I am the captain of my own ship since 2005.  My relationship with my boss is pretty, pretty good. But right from the start I made a few things clear : I (in very bold and very capital letter) decide and my boss approves at the same time. Although this seems easy to understand you must realize that the same rule applied with my last boss in a multinational company in 1998.

During the interview with the guy who was about to become my boss I clearly asked him what was the meaning and the weight of my signature. How much could I spend without having to harass him for his permission ? His answer was as clear. The limit was well defined and I could not, under no circumstances, go over that limit. The limit was quite decent and I started my new job with this in mind. When he asked me to prepare the annual budget six months later I justified all the amounts in that budget ONCE. Once established, I (in very bold and very capital letter) was responsible to manage this. The following year, I redid the whole exercise with the same modus operandi in mind.

My direct signature limit was well defined.

My indirect limit and my responsibilities, as far as the budget, were also well defined.

My decisional horizon was clear.

I could decide within those limits without ANY fear of reprimand or reprisal.

The situation is very different today. In my former organization and in many others which are my clients.

The decisional process is a lot slower. So slow in some companies that there are only two speeds now :  slow or … stopped.

The “branch” mind-set, where the branch manager only executes orders form the head office, is slowly contaminating everyone !!

Fear in every level of these organizations lead to direct losses. Loss of time first because all the other levels must know the decision.

Loss of time means :

  • time lost to validate
  • to countersign
  • to confirm that
  • yes, this 20$ book is valuable for the organization.

How much does the actual decision cost ?

Several hundred of dollars

  • in lost time
  • lost efficiency
  • in frustration
  • in useless paperwork

All because multiple organizations took back from their employees notions of authority and accountability.

Authority to act and be responsible for these actions.

The power to buy a book ( oh…what power), of all things, quality management, with the certainty to by refunded promptly and the accountability to apply the concepts learned therein and even, maybe, lend it to a colleague or two !

The question is : How much does such a decision cost ? In time and effort. This amount must then be reduced by the impact of letting the right people decide, by the positive impact of rightful delegation of power.

The bigger question is : How much cost the absence of a decision ?

  • in frustration
  • lost opportunities
  • decreased of motivation
  • increased personel turnover

One of the most important reason why people change job, within or outside an organization, is the possibility to gain decisional power, to be able to decide rapidly and without too much hassle. This is most of the time intimately linked to spending power and to a budget.

This control over money decreases from year to year. It is centralized around fewer and fewer individuals who then have to spend more of their precious time approving everything.

What a loss of efficiency !

What a loss in opportunities !

Authority and accountability. Two concepts that are rapidly getting lost.


Authority is never asked. It is taken.

Accountability is not related in internal norms and procedures, it is lived.

Those who wield these two virtues recognize themselves and are recognized by others. They are appreciated and respected, most of the time. And we follow them gladly.

What is preventing YOU from doing this too ?

A few inspiring quotes

« Limits are like fear, they are mostly illusions ! » M. Jordan.

« Once one know his limits, one can go over them. » A. Einstein

We know our limits by going over them…..



Start by asking what is your authority (financial and hierarchical)

Then… widen it progressively !


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